Three Approaches to Teaching Social Studies

In chapter five of Teaching and Learning Elementary Social Studies, Arthur K. Ellis introduces three approaches to teach the social studies curriculum: the Learner-Centered approach, the Society-Centered approach, and the Knowledge-Centered approach. Each of these approaches have different strengths and weakness. In the Learner-Centered approach, LeeAnn students are given freedom of choice. It is students driven, meaning students create their own learning. LeeAnn is there to facilitate and support the students. In contrast, Sasha uses the community driven Society-Centered approached. Citizenship is key. Students cooperatively learn in groups and practice participation in a democratic “society.” Sasha is another member of the community and is treated with respect. Lastly, Ellis introduces us to Emma who uses the Knowledge-Centered approach. Emma describes it as, “us[ing] a variety of instructional strategies ranging from inquiry to seat work, but the focus is always on the curriculum” (Page 113). In this approach, student learning is modified to what the teacher think will produce the most learning. The teacher has complete control of what and how the students learn.

After learning about these three approaches, how can one choose? By choosing LeeAnn’s Learning-Centered approach, I am putting my student’s interests and values first. This approach give the students opportunities to create their own learn while I facilitate and ensure they are learning. Learner-Centered create creative and independent students. According to Sasha, Society-Centered approach is just as strong. By choosing this approach, I am building a community in the classroom. This approach creates a “society” where students decide how it is run. Students, as a group, decides on changes that can be made to strengthen their learning community, rules in the classroom that should be followed, and the consequences for not following the rules. Sasha’s approach creates a collaborative environment. By choosing the Learner-Centered approach, my focus is strictly on the curriculum. I am to choose whatever path the students will learn the most.

In my opinion, Sasha’s choice of using Society-Centered approach seems to be the most beneficial to students learning. I believe it is essential for students to learn how to participate in the society. By choosing Society-Centered approach, it is guaranteed that students will learn the importance of participating in a community. This approach will better prepare students to learn how to cooperate and collaborate with other members of that same “society”. In my K-12 experience, I have seen most (if not all) of my social studies teachers use this approach. I enjoyed learning in this form because it has helped me become a more active citizen. In addition, the classroom I am currently interning uses the Society-Centered approach. My mentor teacher is teaching a unit on communities and has the students working with a partner to create a small portion of the community (i.e. school, hospital, business, residential area, parks). The students are basing their “community” out of the Ballard neighborhood, since that is their real community, and building a mini version of it. They are to observe the neighborhood and take note of what the community is made out of (buildings, streets, etc.). The students are working on it little by little each day and should have a complete “community” by the end of the unit. Through this approach, students are becoming more aware of what’s around them. The students are learning key points of what makes up a community. They are becoming more involved in their society.

The first competency I believe aligns with my claim is 3.E, “Establish classroom norms and expectations with students that support a safe, positive learning climate for all.” This competency exactly expresses what the Society-Centered aims to do. Students have the opportunity to run their classroom like a real-world community. The students get to establish order and come up with their own rules, making sure everyone agrees with them in the process. The second competency that aligns with this approach is 1.F.5.E.4,” Invite students into the process of civic engagement by integrating the resources of the community.” By having students observe what is around, students forms consciousness of what’s happening in their community. This enable them to take action or not, nevertheless, they are informed. Students also learn to use their resources available in their “communities.” This competency teaches students how to be responsible (like in the real world).

Arthur K. EllisClassroom Community Project

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